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You Can’t Cast It: Pelvic Fracture Treatment

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You Can’t Cast It: Pelvic Fracture Treatment

May 03, 2016

Would you know if you had a pelvic fracture? Commonly confused with a hip injury, a broken pelvis is seen in two primary populations: patients with life-threatening injuries and older patients who suffer a ground-level fall. If you or a loved one is experiencing persistent pain after a fall, get to a radiologist. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. David Rothberg explains how to identify a pelvic fracture and what treatment options are available for those injuries.

Episode Transcript

Dr. Miller: Could you have a pelvic fracture? We're going to talk about that next on Scope Radio.

Announcer: Access to our experts with in-depth information about the biggest health issues facing you today. The Specialists with Dr. Tom Miller is on The Scope.

Dr. Miller: Hi, I'm Dr. Tom Miller and I'm here with Dr. David Rothberg. He's an orthopedic surgeon and specializes in trauma care. David, how would one know if they had a pelvic fracture? Now I know that these are fractures that don't just occur spontaneously. Generally, people will have some type of trauma. Tell us a little bit about how that happens. How does one suffer a traumatic pelvic fracture?

Dr. Rothberg: There really are two separate patient populations that will have a pelvic fracture. One is the patient with a devastating life-threatening injury. These are not ones where you're questioning. These are patients that come in as a Level 1 trauma activation, but really a lot of these come in in an older patient population who have had a ground-level fall. They've tripped on the carpet, or over a dog, or something like this, and they can have pain anywhere from there groin, their abdomen, or low back, and that's when the work-up starts.

Dr. Miller: Is it sometimes confused with a hip fracture?

Dr. Rothberg: Commonly. The type of pain that you have with those two fractures is extremely similar, and we typically will figure out which one it is by taking x-rays.

Dr. Rothberg: Now a pelvic fracture, I guess depending on the type of patient, generally those are surgically repaired. They're fixed and treated, and then there's a recovery period. What about a pelvic fracture? How do you treat those? It seems like it would be kind of hard to cast a pelvic fracture.

Dr. Rothberg: Yeah, that's true.

Dr. Miller: It's like a rib. You can't cast ribs.

Dr. Rothberg: We don't cast pelvic fractures. What we're trying to figure out when we're working up some of the pelvic fractures is is the pelvis stable or unstable? And what that means is how much motion is in the pelvis when someone would walk.

Dr. Miller: And how do you determine that?

Dr. Rothberg: It's based on physical exam, the x-rays, and oftentimes a CT scan really looking at the pattern of the fracture, or how the bones are broken, and trying to determine the best course.

Dr. Miller: So in a pelvic fracture, would you operate on them from time to time?

Dr. Rothberg: Yeah, it's a very common operation for us. We do them almost daily, if not weekly. It really depends on the age and patient health status and mobility, and a lot to do with what they've broken.

Dr. Miller: Is the recovery time similar to a repaired hip fracture, or is it longer? Is there a difference in the type of recovery?

Dr. Rothberg: It's pretty much in the same ball park depending on the pattern of fracture they had. The surgery is a little easier to recover from. The surgery is not as invasive, but the ability to get back walking is about the same. It's tough in the early period, but we do expect that most people will get back to their daily life.

Dr. Miller: So the real key is if someone falls at home, especially an older person, and they have persistent pain they ought to be checked out and receive some type of radiologic study in order to determine at least initially if there's a fracture.

Dr. Rothberg: That's exactly right.

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